Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

September 19, 2017

This is what American fascism looks like: the Lyndon LaRouche story (part four)

Filed under: LaRouche — louisproyect @ 7:33 pm

Lyndon LaRouche’s ties to Ronald Reagan, the Donald Trump of the 1980s

(part onepart two, part three)

In 2017, large segments of the left—especially anarchists—would have you believe that the USA has something in common with the Weimar Republic in 1930 and that it is necessary to punch neo-Nazis in order to prevent Richard Spencer from becoming a new Hitler.

In reality the largest fascist movement in the USA since the 1930s would never have organized its members to march in torchlight parades chanting “blood and soil” even though it was clearly trying to emulate the Nazis. With allies such as the Grand Wizard of the KKK in Michigan, who had been convicted of bombing school buses to protest busing, you’d think that Lydon LaRouche would have created a new party to serve as a pole of attraction. Showing much more savvy than Richard Spencer and his ilk, he instead submerged his US Labor Party into the Democratic Party just as the CPUSA has done since the New Deal.

Between 1982 and 1988, his movement ran in 4,000 Democratic Party primaries and general elections in over 30 states. At the peak of his powers when he was a presidential candidate, LaRouche used to buy an hour’s worth of time on network TV to present his rather convoluted mixture of leftish sounding attacks on the IMF and bizarre conspiracy theories about how Queen Elizabeth was a drug lord. Dennis King describes the scope of his electoral machine:

Its fund raisers brought in tens of millions of dollars while its candidates attracted over 4 million votes, including voting percentages above 10 percent in hundreds of contests. In at least 70 statewide, congressional, or state legislative races, LaRouche candidates polled over 20 percent of the vote. At least 25 appeared on the general election ballot as Democratic nominees, either by defeating a regular Democratic opponent or by running in the primary unopposed. Although none was actually elected to any public office higher than a local school board, hundreds won Democratic Party posts (mostly county committee seats) across the country.

So how would antifa have dealt with this growing menace? By punching people who were passing out his campaign literature? Given the vast network of people taking part in his cult’s election bids, it would have been impossible to make a dent. For all of the talk from the liberal left about becoming the equivalent of the Tea Party in the Democratic Party, LaRouche came much closer to that goal but with one difference. He sought to incubate an ultraright movement in a traditionally liberal party even though a lot of his rhetoric began sounding similar to Ralph Nader’s “anti-globalization” politics and even to Trump administration ideologues. For example, Paul Gallagher ran for governor of New York in 1978 urging the New York bourgeoisie to take the lead in a “national export boom.”

And also like the Trump administration, his candidates were complete racists. During the struggle for busing in Boston, one ran in a district that included South Boston, where white racists were terrorizing Black schoolchildren just like in Alabama and Mississippi a decade earlier. After denouncing busing as a Ford Foundation conspiracy, he got 10.7 percent of the vote. What would antifa have done to suppress his hate speech? Storm into one of his rallies in South Boston and begin hitting people with 2 by 4s? Politics is a lot more complicated than that, especially considering the opposition of Robert Avakian’s cult to busing back then.

LaRouche calculated that his mixture of addled populism and racism would appeal to older and white DP voters in the same way that a part of this demographic decided to vote for Reagan and then for Donald Trump. It was the same voter that George Wallace appealed to in 1968 when he ran for President on an openly racist platform. Like Trump promising the sky to former coal miners, LaRouche tried to win the votes of workers in the nuclear industry who were suspicious of the anti-nuclear direction of the DP. In a speech to construction workers at the Seabrook nuclear power site, he promised to build 2,500 nuclear plants by the year 2000.

Despite continuing to run as a Democrat, LaRouche became an enthusiastic supporter of the Reagan Revolution in 1980. In exactly the same fashion as Bannon and Alex Jones hanging on to Trump’s coat-tails, LaRouche saw Reagan as a defender of nationalist values. In many ways, the fight within the Republican Party in 1979 mirrored that between Trump and Jeb Bush in the 2016 primary. In his speaking engagements, LaRouche concentrated his fire on his father George H.W. Bush who was denounced as a “globalist”. Despite a lot of the craziness in his party press, LaRouche was very much the counterpart of Steve Bannon (granted Bannon can be pretty crazy himself.)

Repeating themes popular on the left back then (and today, for that matter), LaRouche denounced Bush as a tool of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Trilateral Commission. The steady drumbeat of LaRouche’s campaign speeches likely had an effect since reporters began bombarding Bush with questions about the Trilateral Commission.

Once Reagan was elected, LaRouche felt the same sense of exultation that could be found in alt-right circles but unlike the alt-right, he was much more successful in building ties to a president who was about to carry out a vicious attack on the working class in the USA and internationally.

Showing an ability to suppress some of the wacky stuff published in the cult’s Executive Intelligence Review (EIR), top operatives went to Washington in 1981 to sell their services. They made sure to advertise themselves as boosters of Reagan’s Trump-like policies on the military, the environment, and drugs while making sure to avoid any references to Queen Elizabeth as a drug lord.

The Reagan White House and LaRouche saw eye-to-eye particularly on the need for Star Wars and pushing for nuclear power. They had even beaten Reagan to the punch. In the late 70s they were lining up rightwing atomic scientists like Edward Teller to support the goals of the Fusion Energy Foundation that promoted a Star Wars type anti-missile defense, fusion energy, and bigger and more powerful thermonuclear devices. While Teller considered them too weird to network with, a close friend of his and highly respected scientist named Robert Budwine from the Livermore Labs was drawn into their periphery. King, a consummate researcher, wrote:

Budwine became deeply intrigued by the LaRouchians and was drawn for several months into the periphery of their cult life. Among other things, he attended the NCLC annual conference in January 1984 at LaRouche’s Virginia mansion, where the baroque harpsichord background music struck him as “an attempt to re-create an eighteenth-century salon.” He formed friendships with Uwe Parpart and other NCLC members, and spent several hours in private discussions with LaRouche on Indo-European root languages, Riemannian geometry, and other LaRouche hobbies.

As King also reported, LaRouche recruited Winston Bostick, the former chairman of the Stevens Institute of Technology physics department, and Friedwardt Winterberg, a fusion specialist with the University of Nevada’s Desert Research Institute, into the FEF. Bostick became a leading figure, speaking at its conferences, writing for its journal and serving on the editorial board of another FEF publication, the International Journal of Fusion Energy. In a 1984 telephone interview he said he supported LaRouche’s attempts to promote “German military, scientific, cultural, and economic traditions.” Meanwhile, Winterberg hailed LaRouche as having the “most scientifically founded” program of any presidential candidate and allowed the FEF to publish his Physical Principles of Thermonuclear Explosive Devices in 1981, sending him on overseas speaking tours.

By providing a platform for softball interviews, the EIR cultivated ties to the Republican Party elite. Among the politicians whose views could be seen in this fascist journal were Agriculture Secretary John Block, Defense Under Secretary Richard DeLauer, Commerce Under Secretary Lionel Olmer, Treasury Under Secretary Norman Ture, Assistant Attorney General Lowell Jensen, Murray Weidenbaum, the chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, and Senators Orrin Hatch and John Tower. No matter how much Richard Spencer has praised Donald Trump, he never could have gotten through the front door to the equivalent of such pols today. That’s the big difference between LaRouche and the alt-right. He was far more interested in influencing public policy than doing half-assed imitations of a Nuremberg rally.

The most important inroads, however, were with the National Security Council and the CIA. LaRouche followers met frequently with Richard Morris, the top aide to National Security Adviser William Clark. They also got the ear of other NSC officials such as Ray Pollock and Norman Bailey.

From the CIA, the cult developed ties to CIA deputy director Ray Cline, who was deeply involved with the rightwing death squads in Nicaragua and El Salvador, as well as former CIA counterintelligence chief James Angleton, who headed up surveillance of anti-war protesters and left groups in the 60s and 70s. Once again we are indebted to King’s superlative research to see how internecine the ties were between LaRouche and the CIA:

In the early years of the Reagan administration the LaRouchians established direct channels into the intelligence community. Admiral [Bobby] Inman appreciated their “flow of materials” to help fill the gap left by [Stansfield] Turner’s cutbacks [Carter’s CIA director]. LaRouche was allowed to brief two aides to John McMahon, Inman’s successor, at CIA headquarters in 1983. According to court papers, an aide to Federal Emergency Management Agency director Louis Guiffrida frequently met with the LaRouchians and even came to NCLC headquarters for a day’s briefing. Jeffrey Steinberg visited the National Security Council eight to ten times between June 1983 and June 1984, according to his deposition in LaRouche v. NBC. Articles in EIR were peppered with quotes from unnamed “CIA Sovietologists” and “DIA analysts.”

The real question is what bearing the obsessions of the Southern Poverty Law Center and “It’s Going Down” have to do with arguably the most powerful fascist movement since the 1930s. What do you do when the fascists operate as a wing of the Democratic Party, are focused on electoral activity and generally avoid street-fighting? LaRouche had finally decided not long after he abandoned stormtrooper type activity against the left in the early 70s that his role was to bloc with the most reactionary forces in American politics. It started with his ties to the KKK and other fringe figures on the ultraright and eventually evolved into providing intelligence to the CIA and other security agencies about the left. Constituting a private investigative agency, his followers worldwide fed information to headquarters about anti-nuclear activists, peace groups, and anybody else who wanted to challenge corporate power. LaRouche also came to the conclusion that in addition to snitching on the left, it was worth his while to make a good living at it. He sold his dossiers on the left to whoever was willing to pay the hefty price. He also began running a multi-million dollar hustle that parted older and often half-senile Republican Party voters from their bank accounts. His phone bankers were very aggressive and very skilled. Eventually this caught up with him in on December 16, 1988, when he was convicted of conspiracy to commit mail fraud involving more than $30 million in defaulted loans. He spent five years in prison as part of a fifteen year sentence.

Even though the LaRouche cult is still operating today, it no longer has the influence it once had. You might even argue that it is no longer fascist but simply just one more ultraright outfit of the sort that the Koch brothers fund and toward the same end.

In my next and final post in this series, I will describe where the group stands today and the possibilities for a new American fascism that had the reach and power of this cult during its heyday.

 

14 Comments »

  1. In the 1980s I often worked on ballot access drives for the Libertarian Party. When talking with people at shopping centers and parks I often heard, “Oh yaa the Libertarian Party, I saw (or read or heard) Lyndon Larouche”s comments on the Queen a while back.” Then I would have to explain the difference in the two movements without letting it slip what I was really thinking which was, “God what an idiot the only connection that Larouche has to us is the letter L.” In addition I would wonder, is this confusion between the two groups an accident or is something more sinister going on here.
    Now I know that there was never a need to sabotage the LP, or any other third party, the winner take all electoral system does that.

    Comment by CLK 200 MB — September 19, 2017 @ 8:37 pm

  2. My two studies of LaRouche available on LaRouche Planet end with his full turn to the right by the late 1970s. Dennis King, however, did a great job of documenting the 1980s when all the success went to LaRouche’s rather large head. He now believed that he was “immune” to prosecution because he had made so many inroads to the powers that be. Following the March 1986 primary defeat of a Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor of Illinois by a LaRouchie named Mark Fairchild and the victory of fellow LaRouchie Janice Hart for Illinois Secretary of State, parts of the Establishment went into utter panic. (The LaRouche people later claimed they defeated the Dem primary candidate backed by David Axelrod, which may well be true.) The LaRouchies also continually attacked Ollie North and angered yet another wing of the national security establishment.

    A coda to all this: One of the top FBI prosecutors of the LaRouchies in Virginia was none other than Robert Mueller.

    Comment by Hylozoic Hedgehog — September 19, 2017 @ 9:25 pm

  3. It will be fascinating to follow the cult shenanigans as La Rouche is now not seen on TV or in public and is secluded in Germany. His top minions are preparing to assume leadership and it is apparent they must face down Helga Zepp LaRouche, who makes for a very dull orator. A bunch of his youth quit, as well. Yes, the Queen of England should have starred in The Wire or Narcos (LOL) Actually the actor who portrayed Stringer Bell as well as the one who portrayed McNulty were English. That’s a dead givaway. I remember when the elderly hardware store owner in the Village whose family my wife knew throughout childhood, was headlined as The Grey Haired Man, a CIA controller of a defector (he changed her locks when she quit)

    Comment by Peter Myers — September 19, 2017 @ 9:40 pm

  4. a correction to #2 — Mueller was a prosecutor of Larouchians in a Massachusetts case, not in Virginia, http://www.nytimes.com/1986/12/17/us/3-larouche-aides-charged-with-obstruction.html

    Comment by Alan Ginsberg — September 20, 2017 @ 12:28 am

  5. Where does the money come from?

    Comment by davidbyrnemcdonaldiii — September 20, 2017 @ 1:04 pm

  6. A lot of it came from their boiler room telephone operations where they would essentially con people (particularly the elderly) into giving them money. This is what eventually brought them down when the government raided their offices in Virginia and opened up criminal prosecutions in Boston and Virginia. Many of their top fundraisers wound up in jail with long sentences for financial crimes that didn’t justify the long sentences but which were imposed because juries so disliked them. (They often ran “political” style defenses that alienated people.) Ultimately, LaRouche himself spend some years in jail in a Fed pen in Minnesota.

    They also made a lot of money with their anti-drug campaign and publications. And, at one time, their magazine Fusion (promoting fusion energy and advanced science) was a major publication just based on sales alone. So they made money in legit ways (sorta) as well. At one point, they also recruited a millionaire named Lewis Du Pont Smith into their ranks from the Du Pont family.

    Those are some of the ways. They got governments and corporations to take out expensive subscriptions to their publication EIR as well. They would then sell special research projects to those who could afford them for a good price. At one point their Detroit operation (before the group left en masse in 1981, I think) hooked up with mafia connected labor Teamster types. They would hire them to write hit pieces on the TDU and other groups. They further established a legit computer company named Computron (a good deal of LC people had some scientific and math background) along with a printing operation named PMR that did a lot of outside contracts for companies.

    So these are some of the overt ways (both legit and criminal) they raised money. As for more covert funding, it remains still unclear and so far there have been no spectacular revelations. Mostly they raised money by having their cadre work day and night for years like dogs. If they were not so insanely greedy, they could have raised a lot of money very legitimately and avoided prison. But LaRouche was so delusional that he thought his “friends” in the spook world etc. would make him immune from any threat of prosecution.

    So even without factoring in some “secret hand” covertly funding them, the funding that is known about shows that they raised an impressive amount of money by means both fair and foul.

    Comment by Hylozoic Hedgehog — September 20, 2017 @ 4:03 pm

  7. It would be interesting to see if leftist parties could raise money as well as the Lyndon Larouche movement did if that would change the fates of the leftist parties.

    Comment by CLK 200 MB — September 20, 2017 @ 9:16 pm

  8. I remember reading that he shared a prison cell with Rev. Jim Baker but never verified it. Can someone here?

    Comment by Nola Lou — September 20, 2017 @ 10:49 pm

  9. Jim Bakker and LaRouche did share a cell. Bakker wrote about it in his memoir. I skimmed it in a bookstore a decade or so ago but don’t remember any good details .

    Comment by Hylozoic Hedgehog — September 21, 2017 @ 2:12 am

  10. If Louis could raise money like Lyndon should he upgrade his blog with a soundtrack to give it more emotional appeal?

    Comment by CLK 200 MB — September 22, 2017 @ 4:49 am

  11. Hitler got his political start when he was recruited into a military intelligence unit under the general direction of Erich Ludendorff following WWI (1919). His role was to act as a spy, talent scout, and agent provocateur in a series of antidemocratic dissident groups, culminating with his involvement in what soon became the Nazi Party. The failed Hitler-Ludendorff putsch in Bavaria in 1923 led to Hitler’s spell in prison and the writing of Mein Kampf. Ludendorff faded into the background, eventually turning against the Nazis and Hiitler, and Nazism became what we think of today when we speak of “fascism”–rather more than Italian fascism, which was so completely overshadowed during WWII and its aftermath by the Nazis.

    Despite the frequent attempts by bourgeois historians to portray Nazism as the diseased outgrowth of a single monstrous and warped personality, it was in fact (as we all know) the outgrowth of broad social currents and historical events in its time, not the least of which, in addition to war and economic crisis, were the Bolshevik Revolution and the powerful labor movements in western Europe. It could be argued (and probably has been) that–far from creating and dominating Nazism by the sheer force of his monstrous personality–Hitler became the monster we know only in response to a prolonged and relentless seduction by other men, e.g. Ludendorff. Veering away from the psychosexual abyss, IMHO, we can at least say that Hitler was successful politically not so much because he created and could draw others into a single unifying cult, based on his actual personality but because he was receptive to a plurality of external forces, to which he contributed the largely fictitious image of an all-powerful and trustworthy (if hysterical) leader, while pursuing, with utter rationality, an agenda that represented the constantly and shrewdly renewed consensus of all the forces actually supporting him. Lots of money was raised, but the political agenda came first and der fuehrer himself, while certainly no joke, was in some ways oddly secondary.

    Could LaRouche, under different objective circumstances, have pulled off a similar synthesis? It’s interesting … .

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — September 22, 2017 @ 7:10 am

  12. I think this comment goes to the heart of the LaRouche problem. While I think it’s understandable to call him a fascist and his group a major fascist group a la Louis and Dennis King — it is a characterization that I reject even though I left the NCLC because of its ties to the far right.

    If you look at Ludendorff and Hitler, the comparison is striking. Ludendorff and his crazy wife Mathilde totally went off the deep end in the 1920s and self-marginalized themselves in a cult. Hitler, in contrast, figured out a way to mainsteam the Nazi Party into an actual political force.

    As I try to show in both Smiling Man from a Dead Planet (http://laroucheplanet.info/pmwiki/pmwiki.php?n=Library.UnityNow) and How It All Began (http://laroucheplanet.info/pmwiki/pmwiki.php?n=Library.HIABcover), LaRouche time and time again self-sabotaged the NCLC and prevented it from turning into a mass organization both when it was on the “left” as well as on the “right.” He did so (IMO) because as soon as the organization really began to take on a mass base, his ability to control it would be placed in jeopardy because large organizations have many different complex facets and demand deal making and political compromises. In short, he would lose control, a prospect that terrified him as far back as the days of the first split inside the organization in 1970-71.

    Unlike Hitler, who was the very rare combination of an ideological fanatic and a savvy politician (Lenin had similar qualities, IMO), LaRouche was far more a run-of-the-mill crackpot. As I show in my study, LaRouche’s unconscious (and maybe even at times semi-conscious) model for the NCLC was the model he learned from his parents as a child when they were part of a fanatic fringe of the Quakers. They later set up their own skid-row fundamentalist church in Boston after being more or less banished by the Quakers. As damaged goods, LaRouche could never transcend this model because he needed fundamentally to be worshiped by a few rather than be admired by the many. LaRouche created what I see as fundamentally far less a “political party” and far more a political cult. And a super eclectic and eccentric one at that.

    In short, there was a built-in self-marginalization to the NCLC which is why it was so frustrating to be in it because just when we were thinking we were finally making headway, LaRouche would make us all look like total idiots with some loony-tune diktat we were now all supposed to follow. It never made sense to me until I realized that I wasn’t in a political party that made obvious bad decisions for reasons I could not understand but in a political cult whose leader was actually committed to sabotaging the organization’s mass potential (and I believe it did have mass potential) because it would toll the death-knell to his over-the-top need for deification and total control.

    At the end of the day, LaRouche created a vanity cult to deify him. While it is somewhat amazing how much that cult pulled off at its height, it never made the cross-over from a cult to a functioning mass base political organization because fundamentally it was never designed to build a mass-based political party even though the members were convinced we were doing just that.

    In short, it chose the path of Ludendorff and not Hitler because it ultimately was not a political party in formation (left, right, or center) but a highly evolved genuine cult of personality. So as a political party it was fundamentally flawed but as a political cult it was pretty remarkable. At least that’s what I believe a study of its history clearly shows.

    Comment by Hylozoic Hedgehog — September 22, 2017 @ 2:45 pm

  13. HH–interesting. But much of Hitler’s success depended on his reaching accommodation with the same elite, authoritatian forces that had initially backed Ludendorff. If Ludendorff backed off, from Nazism after the failure of the two coup attempts to which he lent his considerable prestige, it was perhaps in part because the upstart Hitler unexpectedly beat him at his own game, leaving him alone with his–admittedly crazy–second wife and a hatful of conspiracy theories that eventually proved too much even for the Nazis. Thus, not quite a cult leader vs. rational politician contrast all the way through–Hitler learned vital political lessons from Ludendorff’s example. This made the later L., IMHO, a spent force, not a night-and-day opposite.

    All which suggests that the boundary between rational politics and cults is perhaps more permeable than we like to think. But whatever–this is a deeply interesting subject.

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — September 22, 2017 @ 3:59 pm

  14. As you suggest, I think Hitler leaned more what not to do from Ludendorff’s example.

    You are right that the boundary between politics and cults is very permeable. It’s highly under-theorized on the Left, in part, I think, because these questions lead on the Left to the thorny issue of the “vanguard party formation.” Cult behavior is more or less put in a “weird religion” box and not seen as a secular phenomenon. But things get blurry at extremes. Whether or not one comes down more on the side of LaRouche as a cultist or LaRouche as a fascist per se is less important to me than opening up a broader discussion on the nature of political cults.

    I try to discuss some of this in my preface to Smiling Man from a Dead Planet, actually:

    From SMDP (http://laroucheplanet.info/pmwiki/pmwiki.php?n=Library.GoldenfishBowl)

    “As I note in the conclusion to this study, if one had to translate LaRouche’s erratic hobgoblin of ideology and practice into more conventional sociological terms, the NCLC could be described (especially from the late 1970s forward) as a highly idiosyncratic version of “Third Position fascism.” Yet to do so runs the risk of gerrymandering what is essentially a sui generis “political cult” into a genuine social movement capable of mobilizing thousands (if not millions) of people like fascism or communism. Perhaps a better model may lie in the examination of “New Age”-like political formations from the 1920s and 1930s such as the “I Am” movement or The Silver Shirts, both of whom became ultra-right formations but both of whom were essentially one-leader messiah cults. Technocracy, Inc., has similar internal features although it was entirely secular and operated outside more conventional political norms. In this case of the Labor Committee, however, its foundations were rooted in the radical upheavals of the late 1960s, where Marxism dominated ideological discourse. In this context, one might examine a similar political formation in England, Gerry Healy’s Workers Revolutionary Party, or Marlene Dixon’s San Francisco-based Democratic Workers Party. The role of coercive psychological techniques such as those employed on Weatherman cadre as well as the widespread use of Maoist-inspired “self-criticism” sessions may prove helpful as well. Alexandria Stein’s book Inside Out documents the workings of a particularly insidious Maoist cult in Minnesota.

    In pioneering works like The Occult Underground and The Occult Establishment, the late James Webb tried to examine the relationship between quasi-religious/quasi-political formations that conventional sociological analysis and its highly conventional way of categorizing social formations simply can not understand. If Webb is right, then the difficulty in easily categorizing a group like the Labor Committee may underscore the broader weakness of conventional sociological models. Whatever one’s ultimate evaluation of the Labor Committee, my intent here and in my related study How It All Began is to offer some basic historical outline of the organization’s emergence in the late 1960s to the late 1970s rather than construct a paint-by-numbers sociological category or classification scheme for an organization I personally consider at its core a political messiah cult.”

    But the trend is also changing on the Left. Mark Rudd (and many other ex-Weathermen), for example, now describe their group as a political cult. It’s hard not to think of the RCP (particularly after the mid-1970s split) as something like a cult. Fred Newman’s International Workers Party also might be kept in mind. There is a fascinating example of a weird Maoist cult in England that surfaced not so long ago as well.

    All these groups (really groupuscules) have a political dimension but IMO that’s only part of a much more complex story. I think as well that Weber’s idea of a group being at first run by a more charismatic leader and then becoming more bureaucratic as it develops is relevant as well. In my view, LaRouche strangled the organization to keep it at the charismatic leader level. What happens to it after his physical demise? Does it fall apart and break into factions once the charismatic leader is dead? Or does it somehow survive by making itself more like a PR firm for China? My guess is that both currents are already operating simultaneously even today but it’s impossible to say which will win out in the long run just now.

    Comment by Hylozoic Hedgehog — September 22, 2017 @ 5:00 pm


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